Face up to it

Anti-aging creams are advancing and improving almost daily, but sometimes a cream just isn’t enough.

(image: Clarins)

Fortunately a facelift or other invasive surgery is not the only route anymore. There are now many ‘lunch-time’ treatments to treat a number of aging woes. These non-surgical cosmetic procedures don’t require hospitalisation, require very little down-time, and most are done within an hour.

As most people are scared by what they don’t know, I will explain and de-myth the most common treatments, so you can make-up your own mind about them.


This is a process where aluminium crystals are blasted onto the skin with a pressurized jet to remove the any dead skin. This is then sucked away by a vacuum, revealing a beautifully smooth complexion. This can help reduce the appearance for fine lines and wrinkles, sun damage and scars. A course of 4 to 6 weekly treatments followed by monthly maintenance is recommended for best results. Make sure you wear a high factor sunscreen ever day afterwards as your skin will be more susceptible to burning.  The treatment is usually offered on its own, but some spas and salons offer it as part of a facial.  You can expect to pay anything from R300 for a treatment.


An acid (normally Glycolic) solution is applied to the skin to remove varying layers of skin. The percentage of acid will depend on how deep a peel is required.  A light peel will remove dead surface skin; a medium peel will work to reduce wrinkles, and a deep peel will penetrate the lower dermal layers to remove wrinkles are scars. A light peel will leave you a bit pink for a few hours, while a deep peel will  make you skin red for a few days before the layers peel off.


Love it or hate it, this is still one of the fastest growing treatments around. It was originally developed to treat eye spasms, but was approved for cosmetic use by the FDA in 2002. Since then its makers, Allergan have recorded that 11.8 million Botox cosmetic procedures have been administered in the US alone. It is made from a protein complex called botulinum toxin type A, which is the same toxin responsible for food poisoning. This is what usually puts people off Botox, but in the doses developed for cosmetic use, it will not give you food poisoning. It works by blocking neuromuscular transmission, which is responsible for muscle movement, which causes wrinkles to develop. Botox can be used to treat wrinkles and line around the eyes and on the forehead. I’ve heard from a few doctors  that only the top part of the face be treated with Botox, while the bottom half treated with fillers to avoid the ‘deer in the headlights look’. Slight reddening and bruising may occur where the needle was inserted. The results will be visible after a few days. Prices vary greatly, but rather go to a specialist who has been recommended, as the success of the treatment greatly depends on the experience of the person injecting it.


The most well-known brands are Juvederm, Restylane and Perlane, and are all based on Hyaluronic Acid, which is a naturally occurring human protein. The skins stores of it deplete as we age, causing the skin to sag, making us look older. Newer products contain natural collagen to plump-up the skin, but aren’t widely available in SA. The main use of fillers is just that – to fill. Lips, wrinkles, and even cheeks can be plumped-up. They can also be used to boost the skin’s own collagen production. The solution is injected into the areas with very fine needles, and the results can be seen almost immediately. You’ll need to apply an ice pack after the treatment, and may feel a bit swollen for a few days.


Both light and radio frequency are very successful in collagen production, and work by heating the dermis to help repair any deep damage (wrinkles). The most popular versions are IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) and Limelight to treat thread veins and dark spots; Titan radio frequency heats fibroblasts to produce collagen to firm the skin; Acutip 500 heats pigmented cells, and removes them (scars, age spots and pigmentation); and PDT (Photo Dynamic Therapy) which uses a combination of blue, red and yellow light of varying wave lengths to treat a host of problems from scarring to acne to speeding-up recovery time from wounds and surgery. The process doesn’t hurt, and beside a little redness, there is no down-time.


One of the more extreme options, Fraxel laser works by sending sharp burst of ‘fraxelated’ light onto the face. It only targets damaged cells, leaving surrounding healthy cells untouched. It can be used to treat wrinkles, scars and age spots. The treatment is more uncomfortable than sore thanks to anaesthetic cream. Down-time will depend on the strength of the procedure, but at worst the skin will swell, and look sunburnt for a day or two before it forms a brown film which peels-off over about a week.